The Beginnings of English Law
Published: February 2013© 2002
304 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
Ebook - PDF
The laws of Æthelbert of Kent (ca. 600), Hlohere and Eadric (685x686), and Wihtred (695), are the earliest laws from Anglo-Saxon England, and the first Germanic laws written in the vernacular. They are of unique importance as the only extant early medieval English laws that delineate the progress of law and legal language in the early days of the conversion to Christianity. Æthelbert's laws, the closest existing equivalent to Germanic law as it was transmitted in a pre-literate period, contrast with Hlohere and Eadric's expanded laws, which concentrate on legal procedure and process, and again contrast with the further changed laws of Wihtred which demonstrate how the new religion of Christianity adapted and changed the law to conform to changing social mores.
This volume updates previous works with current scholarship in the fields of linguistics and social and legal history to present new editions and translations of these three Kentish pre-Alfredian laws. Each body of law is situated within its historical, literary, and legal context, annotated, and provided with facing-page translation.
‘Oliver’s beautifully written and appealing book promises to become essential reading and reference material for Anglo-Saxonists and British historians alike.’Sara M. Butler, Mediaevistik
‘The Beginnings of English Law is an excellent book. Written with verve as well as with care, it puts a fresh face on three ancient law codes and surrounds them with clear and useful commentary that scholars in many different fields will find useful.’Allen J. Frantzen, Anglia
‘Oliver offers a welcome contribution to our understanding of early Anglo-Saxon law, as well as a very useable work of reference.’Martin Grimmer, Journal of the Australian Early Medieval Association
‘This will be the platform on which scholarly use of the Kentish laws will be constructed for many years to come and should be welcomed as a major work in its own right.’N.J. Higham, Speculum
‘This is an academically compelling book, offering not only new editions and translations of three Kentish laws of the seventh century, but also interdisciplinary analyses of those laws based on the author’s interest in linguistic, anthropological, and sociological interpretations of legal history. Scholars of different disciplines, including women’s studies, can find interesting materials and inspiring views. More general readers who wish to understand the beginnings of English law can benefit from reading it too.’Wenxi Liu, Sixteenth Century Journal